A Rant on Lack of Communication
My wife and I recently had a horrible experience on a flight back from our 20-year anniversary trip to Punta Cana. Those of you who are friends with me on Facebook have probably read some of my posts during that experience. Allow me to share.
Our flight was supposed to be a five-hour flight from Punta Cana to Chicago O’Hare. Other than the flight being overbooked and the airline asking for eight volunteers to give up their seats for a $500 voucher, a room at a resort overnight and a guaranteed flight out the next day, everything went pretty typical – until we boarded.
Once most of the passengers were seated, numerous people a few rows in front of us started trying to get the flight attendants attention. They were pinging their flight attendant call buttons like crazy and calling to them, but for some reason nobody came back. The flight attendants just stood in the front galley talking to each other. Finally, somebody shouted, “We need help right away!” That got their attention.
There was a lady seated in an aisle seat who was not feeling well. She was throwing up in the aisle of the aircraft. It turns out that the airline, in an effort to save money I guess, decided at some point in time to not put barf bags in the seat backs. That’s right – not a single barf bag on board. So she did what she thought she needed to do.
After cleaning up the mess, the flight attendants carried on with the boarding process and we were airborne for our flight to O’Hare.
An hour into the flight, the same lady got sick again. This time, in addition to reverse-eating, she passed out and was unresponsive. There was a doctor and several nurses on the flight, and they administered two IV bags. They decided the lady needed to get off the flight.
So we diverted to Orlando and landed at 9:00 p.m. Emergency crews were standing by on the tarmac, and got her on a stretcher and off the plane within 15 minutes.
Then we waited. And waited. Nothing was happening.
10:00 – the captain came on the intercom and said they were waiting for maintenance to do a check before we could continue on. Then we waited. And waited.
11:30 – the captain says that they are still waiting on maintenance. He also tells us that if we didn’t takeoff soon, they would hit their duty time limit and wouldn’t be able to continue the flight. A replacement crew would be needed to continue.
At 11:50, he made the announcement that they had hit their duty time limit and wouldn’t be able to continue the flight. No replacement crews were available. To make matters worse, U.S. Customs in Orlando shuts down at Midnight. Fortunately, Customs agreed to stay late to get all of us off the plane and processed. By 12:30 a.m. we had cleared Customs.
We were then escorted back to the airline’s ticket counter. Once there, we were told by the only agent at the counter that she was going to get us rebooked and put us up in hotels for the night. She told us to hang around while she worked on getting everything done. Then we stood in line and waited. And waited.
At 1:30, a frustrated passenger asked her why nothing was happening. She said that she was one person, and was trying the best she could to help us out. Then we waited another hour and a half.
At 3:00 a.m. five more agents appeared, and we started getting our boarding passes for an 8:00 a.m. flight to Chicago. At 3:30, with our boarding passes in hand, we headed to the TSA checkpoint. But alas, nobody was there. TSA didn’t even open until 4:00!
Once we got past security, we found some seats in the terminal and tried to take a nap. Seeing all our fellow passengers sprawled out all over the place was a surreal sight.
The last straw was that once we were airborne, the flight attendants came through the aisle with their food service cart. They asked if we wanted to purchase any drinks or snacks. That’s right – we were flying a low-cost carrier that charges for EVERYTHING on the flight. Want a 12-ounce can of diet Coke? That’ll put you back $3.00. When she asked me if I wanted to purchase anything, I looked at her and said, “Are you ________ kidding me? I’m sure you can fill in the blank!
What made this flight even worse was the employees’ lack of communication. Starting in Punta Cana, the flight attendants should have realized that the lady was in no condition to fly. They should have communicated this to the Captain and gotten her off the plane to get medical assistance. As it turns out, a lady sitting behind us on our final flight from Orlando to Chicago was telling the couple next to her that she had traveled with the lady who got sick and five other women for a girl’s getaway in Punta Cana. While there, four of the women, including our sick lady, got the flu. She told the couple, “I’m glad she didn’t throw up in the terminal or we might not have made our flight.” That’s right, after the fiasco that was caused by her friend being sick (and knowing it), she had the nerve to share that with her seatmates.
In Orlando, the Captain should have been forthcoming with more information. What made everyone angry was that we were just sitting there on the plane for three hours with practically no communication from the crew.
At the ticket counter, it is evident that there was never any intention to put us up in hotels or that that one gate agent would be able to rebook us until the normal crew showed up at 3:00 a.m. If she would have just said, “Ladies and gentlemen, we are sorry, but we won’t be able to rebook anyone until our system is up and our regular crew comes in at 3:00. There is no need to stand here at the ticket counter. You can go find a place to relax and be back here at 3:00 so we can get you all processed. In addition, I won’t be able to take care of accommodations for all of you since I am by myself and that would take an unrealistic amount of time without any help.” Sure, we might have still been upset, but not as outraged as we were by the silence on their part.
And finally, maybe someone in HQ should have passed on the word to the crew to let the passengers eat and drink whatever they wanted at no charge on the final flight given all we had been put through!
The airline gave us a $200 voucher towards a future flight for our troubles. I guess we should have volunteered to give up our seats in Punta Cana for a $500 voucher and an extra day in paradise, huh?
Thanks for letting me rant!
Airline name withheld to protect the guilty.